Sister Theofila, Putri Karmel: Current grace: a prophetic flow

During his talk in Rome for the 50th anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) in Rome last June 2017 Pope Francis said, “You have received a great gift from the Lord. You were born of the will of the Spirit as “a current of grace in the Church and for the Church.”

The Church is like a great orchestra, where every instrument is different from another and the voices are also different, but all are necessary for the harmony of the music.   And as a whole Church, have only one head, only one Lord: The Lord Jesus.  And we can say this with the strength that the Holy Spirit has given us, because no one can say “Jesus is the Lord” without the Holy Spirit.

What is the first gift of the Holy Spirit?  The gift of Himself, who is love and makes you enamored of Jesus. And this love changes life. Because of this, it is said that we are “to be born again to life in the Spirit.” Jesus said this to Nicodemus. As Christians, we have received the great gift of the diversity of charisms,a  diversity that leads to the harmony of the Holy Spirit, to the service of the Church.

Grace is a word that bears the weight of multiple meanings, both in English and in Greek (charis, gratia). Grace is at once the fruits of God’s acting upon us and a free supernatural gift of God to help us attain eternal life. Grace empowers our intellects and wills to understand God’s will and obey it, yet at the same time it leaves us free to resist if we choose.

St. Thomas Aquinas taught that grace heals the soul by helping us recognize the good while empowering us to desire the good, do the good, persevere in the good and reach glory.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,  “Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ, the Head of his Body.  As an” adopted son” he can henceforth call God ‘Father,” in union with the only Son. He receives the life of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church (1997).

As God’s children, we all receive grace abundantly in our lives. We can choose not to collaborate with God’s grace , and we can ignore it, never knowing that every moment in life is a grace.

Now you are here because you want to respond to God’s grace. There’s no coincidence in our lives. Everything is in God’s plan. God has a wonderful plan for each of us. He wants us to have a happy life, the genuine happiness can be only found in God.

Outside of God there is no genuine happiness. Sometimes, you think you are happy due to your wealth, your position as a leader, and so on.  But if you want to be honest with yourself, neither your wealth, job,  nor your hobbies will not make you happy inside. Perhaps in your appearance you look happy, but on the contrary, you realize in the depth of your heart there is still emptiness or unhappiness.

God gives us His actual grace to do many things, but we don’t realize it. The grace that God pours out upon us is like the sun. It depends on our receiving it. If we want to get a suntan, we have to leave our houses and go to the beach. If we stay inside, we will never get a suntan.

It’s only a metaphor, but it’s the same thing with grace from God. He always gives it to us even though we are sinners. But we need to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to receive God’s grace.

(to be continued)

Copyright 2018, Sister Theofila

About the author: Sister Theophila is the Prioress of the Daughters of Carmel, located in Saint Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park. Visit Daughters of Carmel website for more information. Sister Theophila gave this conference during a Charismatic Renewal event.

Erin Foord, ocds: St. Teresa’s bookmark – attachments

What are some of the attachments that disturb you? What are the situations that hinder you from being loving and respectful to others? Are you attached to personal ideas, to political views, to personal concepts about God, and how to serve Him? Are you attached to being “right” and find pleasure in pointing out how others are “wrong”? Do you get upset when things don’t go your way, revealing your desire for external power and control over people and situations?

What can we do? We must start by identifying the disordered attachments in our life, and address them through a practical plan of detachment. If we don’t break the attachment, we find ourselves endlessly repeating the same situation over and over again.

This kind of compulsive, addictive, behavior actually feeds a false, or phantom self which is the ego. Egoism and pride are deeply embedded in the human spirit and as Father Garrigou-LaGrange explains, “They must be purified from every human attachment to their judgment, to their excessively personal manner of seeing, willing, acting, from every human attachment to the good works to which they devote themselves.”

We can be so unconsciously identified with our ego that we don’t even know that we are its prisoner. This is why Jesus emphatically demands that, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Lk. 9:23) Saint Paul affirms that, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal. 5:24)

Basilica grounds, Iria de Cova Fatima. Photo credit :thespeakroom.org

Once purified, we are able to experience a greater freedom and to be open to the gifts that God wishes to lavish on us. As Jesus promised, “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God.” (Mt.5:8)

The beginning line of Saint Teresa’s bookmark, “Let nothing disturb you” is advocating emotional detachment and a loving indifference, where we accept whatever happens in our lives with equanimity and an absolute trust in God and His will for us. This is expressed by St. John in his poem, Glosa a lo Divino:

“From creatures now my soul is free,

Detached from all created things;

Now she at last has taken wings

And lives her life delectably.

To God, and God alone, she clings.”

Copyright 2018, Erin Foord, ocds

About the author: Erin Foord has been a Secular Discalced Carmelite for 40 years.  He served as President of the California-Arizona Provincial Council from 2014-2017. He gave this conference as part of an Ongoing Formation class for the Santa Clara , CA OCDS community.

Erin Foord, ocds: St. Teresa’s bookmark – the present moment

With closer examination, we find that clinging to our disordered attachments actually resist God, and refuse His will for us. His will is represented by the present moment and what actually “IS”. This can be difficult to understand, but the only reality that exists, is the present moment.

God is only in the present moment and the only way we can embrace union with God is in and through the present moment. The concepts of past and future only exist in our heads as mental constructs. The illusion of a past based on memory and an imagined future have no reality of their own. Nothing ever happened in the past, it happens in the present. Nothing will ever happen in the future, it happens in the present.

We cannot affect change in the past—its gone. Nor in the future, it hasn’t happened yet. In actual fact, there is never a time when our life is not “this moment” and the only place where true action can occur is right now. This ever flowing, now, is always our only opportunity for interaction and communion with God!

So by its very nature, an attachment which is a clinging or preoccupation with some past event, is a serious detriment to our spiritual life. This is why the healing and purification of our memory is so important. The memory is the reason for our unwillingness to honor and acknowledge and embrace the present reality.

This resistance is always characterized by some form of negative judgment or complaint. To complain is always non-acceptance of what “IS” and signals an underlying disordered attachment. Don’t complain, either accept a situation or acknowledge that it exists and change it.

In serious cases the soul becomes trapped in its compulsion to deny the present reality and to live through memory and anticipation. This separation from our Divine Source will be experienced as guilt, regret, shame, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of unforgiveness.

These experiences are the fruit of clinging to a disordered past expectation that was unsuccessful, replaying it over and over in our head where we ignore the present reality – God, who essentially becomes an enemy that must be resisted or denied.

“No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Mat.6:24)

(to be continued)

Copyright 2018, Erin Foord, ocds

About the author: Erin Foord has been a Secular Discalced Carmelite for 40 years.  He served as President of the California-Arizona Provincial Council from 2014-2017. He gave this conference as part of an Ongoing Formation class for the Santa Clara , CA OCDS community.

Father Robert Elias, ocd: confidence in God & mothers day

NOTE: Click on the triangle to listen to Father Robert’s Homily on 5/12/18 on confidence in God –and Mothers Day as he discusses “Seasons of the Heart” by John Welch, O. Carm., Bob Marley, Lauryn Hill, and his past.

Painting by Brother Frank Sharma, OCD

 

 

Teresa Linda, ocds: motherhood

Photo credit: The Speakroom, Toledo Spain 2015

During Holy Week, my mother, who is in her late seventies, had her sixth ischemic attack, her worse one yet. This time, rather than simply forgetting a conversation just five minutes beforehand, she could not recognize anyone in the family, not even my father.

Everyone thought that this would be her last battle. But one morning, she came to – repeating the words, “Everything is nothing, except God.” Saint John of the Cross, with his  doctrine ‘nada, nada, nada’ (nothing, nothing, nothing) must have been teaching her spirit.

As Mother’s Day approaches, after having almost lost my mother to an instant emptying of all her memories, I contemplate what these words mean for my own motherhood.

Mothers cannot help but cling to their children. How can we not?

My clearest memories are of those first moments after my children were born – the smell of their foreheads mixed with that of the hospital bed, the size of their toes next to my thumb nail, and the way each of them instinctively tightened their grip around my pinky, when I applied the slightest pressure against their small palms.

As I embraced each of them, with all their fingers wrapped around one of mine, I wanted the moment to last forever. But of course, it couldn’t.

I spent most of my motherhood believing that I was learning to let go of my children, but instead, I was finding ways to hold on to them as tightly as they held on to me when they were newborns.

Almost twenty years ago, my husband and I flew from Philadelphia to San Francisco on a one-way ticket. He had a new job, but that was it. We had no long-term housing, and all our belongings, except for what we carried in our suitcases – were in storage.

It felt liberating to finally leave what was then the crack-ridden streets of Philadelphia and the limited education options of an urban neighborhood that had just been red-lined – for the dreams and possibilities that were open to my husband and my children in California.

I knew I was walking away from a Pennsylvania teaching credential – something that required $30,000 in student loans and included seven years of being a tenured middle-school and high school teacher. I also turned down a teaching position in a Main Line Philadelphia private school. I thought that I was letting go of my own dreams – so that my husband and children could follow theirs.

It took me a long time to realize it, but what I was really doing was holding on even tighter, replacing the ambitions and expectations I had for myself – upon them. In those moments when I would see that anyone in my family might fall short, I did everything in my power to fill the gap – often times at great personal expense.

Of course, none of this was helpful to anyone.

For “whether it be a strong wire rope or a slender and delicate thread that holds the bird, it matters not, if it really holds it fast; for, until the cord be broken the bird cannot fly,” writes Saint John of the Cross.

Because ‘Everything is nothing, except God’ – then the best way to be a mother, or for that matter, for anyone to grow in holiness, is to let go of everyone and everything – except God.

How do we do this?

On the day of His resurrection, Jesus tells Mary Magdala, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to my God and your God” (John 20:17).

Our Lady is a Mother who knew how to let go of her son,  even through the terror of witnessing His crucifixion, so that God the Father could complete His work in Him, with Him, and through Him.

I’ve always wondered why, although our Lady was present as one among those who “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer” (Acts 1:14) after Jesus’ Ascension, she is not present with the disciples in any of the gospel accounts of His Easter resurrection. Where was she?

She must have been alone, pondering in her heart.

The most important conversations I have had with my children have been hidden behind closed doors. I picture Our Lady in a room with a closed door, being greeted with love beyond all-telling, by Jesus  in His glorified state, on the day of His resurrection. Their encounter is one of immense joy and intimacy, one deserving of a mother who gave her son over completely to the will of God the Father.

But she kept all these things in her heart.

I have always been ambitious for myself, my husband, and my children, but I know now that this is a clinging to straws.

As a mother, I have to be ambitious to be well-pleasing to God – and that’s it.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you beautiful women who have and are raising children! May God grant you the grace to be ambitious to be well-pleasing to Him in your motherhood!

About the author: Teresa Linda is the Formation Director of the Santa Clara, CA Order of Secular Discalced Carmelites (OCDS). She has four children, ages 15-26, has been married for 28 years, and is a community college English professor.

Erin Foord, ocds: St. Teresa’s Bookmark-healing of our disordered desires

Photo credit: Lorelei Low, ocds

Stay in your own incarnation!

This means we take full responsibility for our feelings and for everything else that happens to us. We realize the futility of trying to control and manipulate the world of people and situations to fit our disordered desires and cravings.

And we refrain from blaming people and situations for our unfulfilled expectations. Rather, we thank God for everything that happens to us, the things we judge as wanted and the ones we judge as undesirable, trusting in faith “…that all things work for good for those who love God”. (Rom.8:28)

The spiritual person, seeks internal power and creates happiness and security by looking inward to identify the causes of unhappiness and insecurity and heal them. We can never be free or at peace until we learn to identify our disordered desires and heal their root causes.

Recognizing the various life situations that disturb and trigger us to feel upset, fearful, worried, anxious, resentful, uptight, angry, bored, etc. help identify what attachments and disordered desires we need to work on.

Using every uncomfortable emotion as an opportunity for spiritual growth, we examine the triggers underlying the emotions to understand and heal the desires and attachments that are disordered and incompatible with the love of God and neighbor.

The healing of our disordered desires comprise the active dark nights of sense and spirit. They involve our own efforts of self-denial, detachment, prayer, and growth in virtue supported by God’s grace. All the things we outwardly or secretly love and desire, which prevent us from setting our hearts completely on God, need to be put to rest, as if entering a dark night where they no longer hinder the soul from advancing towards the love of God and neighbor.

What you love is what you will become as Jesus confirms, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21). So along with the imperfections of the lower faculties of sense, the spiritual faculties of the understanding, memory and will must also be healed.

Father Garrigou LaGrange explains, “The stains of the old man still remain in their spirit like rust that will disappear only under the action of a purifying fire”.

(to be continued)

Copyright 2018, Erin Foord, ocds

AAbout the author: Erin Foord has been a Secular Discalced Carmelite for 40 years.  He served as President of the California-Arizona Provincial Council from 2014-2017. He gave this conference as part of the Ongoing Formation class for the Santa Clara , CA OCDS community.

Erin Foord, ocds: St. Teresa’s bookmark: disordered attachments

by Madrazo 1803

A disordered attachment can often be difficult to recognize or admit in ourselves. They can be seductive and masquerade as “needs” essential to life. But there are definite fruits where we can distinguish disordered attachments from ordinary and proper desires referred to above.

The identifying characteristic of a disordered attachment is that it triggers an adverse emotional response when our desired expectations are threatened or denied. At such point we have become subjugated to creation rather than our Creator for our life, happiness, and joy. The triggering of our negative emotions is a warning sign that we are overly attached to someone or something.

Also, that which we emotionally avoid and resist is just as much an attachment as is something we crave and desire. The attachment is to the fulfillment of our disordered expectations. Since it is backed by the full rush of our emotions, each attachment has the potential to put us in a state of emotional warfare with our self, others, and God.

When our disordered cravings and desires are threatened or unrealized, as will always be the case to one degree or another, it can engender a host of negative emotions that preoccupy, distract, and do us harm. Obviously, we attract fear, worry, and distress into our life when our disordered expectations are threatened. As this continues over time, fear can intensify to anxiety and paranoia.

When progress towards the fulfillment of our expectations is consistently less than desired we experience frustration, boredom, cynicism, and despair. These harmful emotions dominate our consciousness and keep us from perceiving clearly.

We become quick to blame others and adept at rationalizing the real or imagined impairments to our expectations. We lash out with feelings of suspicion, anger, resentment, and jealousy. In reality we bring this on ourselves when we first attempt to control and manipulate people and situations in our lives to comply with our disordered expectations.

A large part of this problem is the way we were taught to approach life reinforces the feelings and situations that result in failure and unhappiness. We are taught from an early age to seek external power through exploration and study of the physical world. We undergo years of education where we learn to satisfy our wants and desires through manipulation and control of what we discovered.

This way of achieving happiness can’t possibly work, because contrary to popular opinion, happiness is not obtained through the accumulation, manipulation, and control of people and situations.

(to be continued)

Copyright 2018, Erin Foord, ocds

About the author: Erin Foord has been a Secular Discalced Carmelite for many, many years.  He served as President of the Arizona-California Provincial Council until very recently. He gave this conference as part of an Ongoing Formation class for the Santa Clara , CA OCDS community.

Erin Foord, ocds: St. Teresa’s Bookmark

St. Teresa of Avila, Our Holy Mother, a mystic, and Doctor of the Church, wrote this poem in the 16th century. It’s called St. Teresa’s Bookmark because, according to tradition this great Saint carried it around in her prayer book, where it was found after her death.

Nada te turbe,

Nada te espante

Todo se pasa:

Dios no se muda.

La paciencia todo lo alcanza:

Quien a Dios tiene nada le falta;

Solo Dios basta.

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:God never changes.Patience obtains all things,

Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

— St. Teresa of Avila

Sometimes you may find this poem referred to as a prayer. Why is it not a prayer? Do you see how this simple poem represents the foundation of Carmelite prayer and spirituality? How? It provides an essential outline for living a spiritual life.

As mentioned, it was placed in Saint Teresa’s breviary where several times a day it was a reminder for her reflection her focus on Jesus Christ and living His joy, free from anger, resentment, fear and worry, and the needless suffering that results. Let’s look more closely at each line.

Let nothing disturb you.

When we are disturbed it is caused by clinging to disordered cravings and desires. The lives of Carmelite seculars [and anyone else who long to follow Jesus] are characterized by living for God in the world. It is a balancing act; giving to God what belongs to God and to Caesar, the demands the world makes of us.

Most of us need some form of employment to pay rent or mortgage, and to provide for the needs of our families. Living in the world, we are constantly facing the temptation of how much is enough? At what point do our desires for …money, security, relaxation (pleasure), status, power, prestige, etc., become less about serving God and neighbor (ordered) and more about serving ourselves and our egos (disordered)?

Saint Teresa’s poem suggests it may be when we become emotionally invested in the outcome. Where the balance begins to shift from ‘Thy will be done’ to ‘My will be done.’ In the language of Saint John of the Cross, when we start to have these emotionally backed demands, we are forming inordinate attachments.

Saint John observes that anyone serious about loving God, must not voluntarily entertain self-centered pursuits of finite things sought for themselves. That is, devoid of honest association to God, our sole end and purpose.

Saint Paul makes the same point to the Corinthians that, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” (1 Cor 10:31) The issue for Saint John is not whether we use and enjoy created goods, but rather our desire for them and our attachment to them that does harm to our spiritual life. He explains, “…it is not the things of this world that either occupy the soul or cause it harm, since they enter it not, but rather the will and desire for them.” (Assent: Book 1,Chap. 3)

He clarifies that he is speaking of voluntary desires and not natural ones‚ for the latter are little or no hindrance to advanced prayer, as long as the will does not intervene with a selfish clinging. By natural desires the Saint has in mind, for example, a desire for water when thirsty, for food or the means to purchase food when hungry, for a habitable shelter, meaningful work, and for rest when fatigued. There is no necessary disorder in these attachments. To eradicate these natural inclinations, and to mortify them entirely is impossible in this life.

Of course, even natural desires can become unruly and exaggerated, wherein we seek to overly satisfy them, and they become ends in themselves.  This provokes Saint Paul to lament, “For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their ‘shame.’ Their minds are occupied with earthly things.” (Phil 3:18-19)

(to be continued)

Copyright 2018, Erin Foord, ocds

About the author: Erin Foord has been a Secular Discalced Carmelite for 40 years.  He served as President of the California-Arizona Provincial Council from 2014-2017. He gave this conference as part of an Ongoing Formation class for the Santa Clara , CA OCDS community.

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Easter – 3rd mansion: first water

The Life of prayer in the Purgative Way, is the first water that St. Teresa talks about in The Life. There are four waters, and the Purgative Way is the first water. She explains the analogy of the well, where we are doing all the work; this is the Purgative Way form of prayer that she talks about in The Life, Chapters 11 to 13. For growth in the art of prayer, two things are necessary: desire it and have determined determination. Never give it up.

A Benedictine Father once said so well, ‘Until we are convinced that prayer is the best use of our time, we will never find time for prayer.’ There’s always going to be something to do. There’s no end to being busy, and until we are convinced that prayer is the best use of our time, we will never find time for it.

In the Purgative Way, especially as it develops in the Third Mansion, prayer mostly looks like, practically speaking as a basic and firm anchoring into the Liturgical life of the Church. In more common terms, you’ve got to have your Magnificat; without it, you’re disoriented. The prayer books, the prayer life of the Church and the daily readings anchor you.

In beginning, you develop a unique cultivation of sacred Scripture, and are starting to actually open the Bible, read it for ourselves, and explore what it might mean. Knowing the Word of Jesus is the foundation of a prayer life that is coming to know the heart of Jesus.

Also, the beginner in the first three mansions cultivates ordinary love and prayer through a personal relationship with Jesus. This teaching is from Father Datius, an Indian Carmelite father who has since gone to the Lord. He died recently but gave a lot of retreats. He says this about cultivating ordinary love and prayer, and a personal relationship with Jesus.

‘We start at reading the areas in sacred Scripture’ – meditating in the areas of Scripture which speaks to us directly in God’s love for us in a personal way. ‘Meditate,’ which means reflect calmly; that’s what meditation is with Christians, and it’s different than Buddhists. ‘Reflect calmly on God’s loving presence in our life.’ Throughout each stage of our life, God’s love was always there.

Reflect on that. You can even use the rosary to do it as your vehicle. ‘See how God has been as a provident provider and lover in every phase of your personal history.’ He’s always been there, always providing, always bringing you out a bind, picking you up on your feet again, and wiping off the dust from a fall.

‘Meditate on God’s mediated love, the way He’s come to you through the means of various people in your life, which have been God’s love in disguise.’

Also, a person can journal, begin to write about their spiritual life, and start to learn better about how God is working in their life by writing it out. Sometimes, God can speak to us in our hearts as we write. We can also be developing gospel friendships and being careful about the company that we keep because whether it’s good company, it rubs off and if it’s bad company, it also rubs off.

This stage of prayer in the Third Mansion is what’s called an Affective Prayer, and as Saint Teresa would call it, the Prayer of Simplicity. Affective Prayer means a prayer of the heart is beginning to start. This means love, praise, thanksgiving, adoration, the sentiments of repentance and surrender; an intercession that is empathetic, that has empathy for those you are praying for. You really like praying for others from the heart and feeling where their needs are, suffering with them, and rejoicing with them.

St. John of the Cross refers to this Prayer of Simplicity as Active or Acquired Contemplation. It’s a prayer that can be taught and involves our effort. It is not yet infused supernaturally, and doesn’t yet have the more the direct inflow of God’s spirit.

God alone can take us beyond this form of prayer into Prayer of Recollection, or what St. John of the Cross calls, Initial Contemplation, which starts in the Fourth Mansion. The transition from natural prayer to the more supernatural prayer, a deeper communion with the Holy Spirit, begins in this fourth stage.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be world without end. Amen

SOURCE: Teresa 5, Copyright 2018, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Easter – 3rd Mansion: generosity & meditation

In the Teresian analysis, the conditions for growth in prayer, the foundation for growth and prayer, is humility, detachment, and love of neighbor, as she has described in The Way of Perfection. Humility, detachment, and love of neighbor are the foundations of prayer, but the conditions for growth in prayer require solitude, fortitude, obedience, and especially generosity.

Too human prudence, a delicate issue for our egos, is a roadblock from transitioning to deeper prayer and deeper intimacy with God. So many of the gospel parables and gospel teachings take us way beyond the limits of just mere human prudence. So many of the gospel teachings talk about God’s lavish generosity.

It wouldn’t have been prudent for the prodigal father to receive his son back, put a robe on his back, put a ring on his finger, place sandals on his feet, have a celebration, and kill the fatted calf. Human prudence would say, ‘That’s a little bit too much!’ But this parable expresses the folly of God’s love. God’s love can be ridiculously generous and overwhelmingly good in lavishing of itself. That is supernatural’; that is agape.

We cannot get to agape love with too human prudence, I’m sorry! And I’m repeating that to myself more than to anybody else here. Here, spiritual reading and meditation is so important. As Sister Ruth Burrows says, ‘Study Jesus Christ in the Gospel and follow Him in His sacred humanity.’ That’s an echo of Saint Teresa. Sister Ruth Burrows says, ‘Do all you possibly can to get to know Him.’

In the Purgative Way, the first three mansions, the work of the mind is indispensable. Because God is not manifesting Himself in any direct way, we need to do the work to get to know Him in a practical way – learn our faith. People only really start to make effort, and actually learn our faith as adults firsthand and take the initiative to actually read something Catholic rather than just wasting our time with just novelties or trivialities, in the Second Mansion. Once people get to the Second Mansion, they actually start to read things that can be of benefit to their spiritual life.

Sister Ruth Burrows says, ‘Eat His words, take them right down into your heart, live them; take a story from the Gospels – read it, recall it, and then believe that you are the person in it with Jesus who questions and invites you to respond.’

The work of the imagination needs to be incorporated in the first three mansions.

Meditation through the effort of the mind is really important for beginners, as Saint John of the Cross would say.

The subtle subjects for meditation are many, but Saint Teresa insists that we meditate on the love shown by God and giving us a son. Go deep into that, try to understand that on a deeper level – on the love of Jesus Himself, on His life, His mysteries, especially His Passion and death.

Traditionally, in the first three mansions, it was suggested that a person meditate on sin and its consequences, on death, on mortality, the fact that we will be judged by God and everything will come into the light, and that there will be only winners or losers, heaven or hell. That very basic framework of reality was often suggested to be the focus of meditation in the first three mansions, in the Purgative Way.

Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene says, “Meditation’s only aim is to enlighten the mind and enflame the heart, to move the will toward more virtuous living. In more contemplative prayer, meditation’s aim is to dispose the mind to contemplation, so as to nourish love – the quiet rest of the simple gaze of love fixed on Christ, or all three persons of the Trinity.”

In other words, we’re not thinking just to gain information, or to know more facts about the saints, and to explore our curiosity about a teaching. We’re only simply looking for something to enlighten our mind in faith, hope, and love in our relationship with God, in order to enflame our hearts, which will hopefully lead to a more virtuous living.

This disposition through the Prayer of Simplicity means telling God peacefully, with frequent pauses, in a thousand different ways, in your own words – that you love Him and that you desire to love Him more and more; that you want to prove your love for Him. It’s that coloqui. St. Teresa talks about the nectar of mental prayer, the heart-to-heart communication.

SOURCE: Teresa 5, Copyright 2018, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD